Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year

So it's the start of 2005 according to this very widely accepted calendar -- though Brenna did ask about changing to a new animal last night, and we had to clarify that it's the Chinese who do animals, and it flips a bit later -- plus they started (or reset?) their stopwatch earlier.

Thinking back to Election Night 2004, I was impressed by that slick data display the anchor was using to slide stuff around on CBS. Very Minority Report, but also not over the top, not too science fiction (some past election years were too gussied up with faux futurism for my taste). This display of data savvy was far more interesting to watch than those stupid ribbons at Rockefeller Center (NBC's focus as I recall). I never checked Fox (I rarely care to be fair and balanced, when I think about that sorry operation).

I've been colluding with Quakers to dig up a lot bigger time frame around the anatomy of political elections, my point being that it never has really worked as advertised. Tampering with the vote is not a recently discovered invention. The USA's history is sordid and yet it's still a great democracy, worthy of celebration -- like I'm happy to put out for pyrotechnics for mutual entertainment and enjoyment on July 4, even if I sometimes use products Made in China on or off the rez (good with gunpowder ya know, one of their inventions, and wisely, a controlled substance under the Khans).

If the American people want, a really secure voting infrastructure could probably be implemented, using public key encryption, one-time-use, identity-keyed polling devices, highly secure data bases with multiple cross-checks and integrity checks, and so on. Geeks know a lot about securing computers. Punch cards aren't necessarily the problem, or the solution (that was a red herring). However, what we had in 2004 was nothing, repeat nothing, like this pie in the sky voting system of tomorrow. We're talking toy software, baby computers, and incompetent coders (or highly paid crooked coders, depending how you want to spin it). Which isn't to say all the private companies are equally culpable or pushing the same agenda. But think about it: if you could sell election results, and keep secret how you do it... goldmine! Don't think this thought hasn't crossed a twisted mind or two (sheesh).

That's my take anyway. I'm not claiming to have the inside scoop on a lot of juicey details here (talk to some of my colleagues about it). That's why I was suggesting the longer view, some historical perspective. It's not all about criminals either. Sometimes it's more about wrongdoing, and with legal authority. Slavery was legal here for a long time, wasn't it? Not a big secret. Not a big surprise if, like right after the Civil War, former slaves didn't immediately have equal rights. Wouldn't be that simple, would it? OK, so let's start the story there and roll forward. We could even squeeze in the part about how corporations get the same rights as humans, artificial zombie-wombats that many of them are, and even before blacks do. Better paid lawyers I guess. And so science fiction becomes law. Welcome to Wild America (and was she ever tame? really?).

Again, I'm not the big historian here. Don't come running at me with those silly cameras, expecting a raw dump of American History. I can't do it. I majored in philosophy at Princeton. But hey, I'm interested. I'm looking foward to watching some pro DVDs, kind of like that documentary on PBS about the Civil War. Really thorough, somewhat painstaking. It'll take time. It's not an easy story to cover. I'm not expecting Netflix will have these listings immediately. However, we should keep taking those oral histories -- including the ones we're collecting about 2004 (lots of great raw footage, already safely archived).